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“Just start.” An interview with creator Sarah Ann Masse

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I had a great time checking out the wonderfully fun work of actress, writer, and comedian Sarah Ann Masse. Read below for our interview with Sarah, chatting about her work, the #metoo movement, and how to manage being a “multi-hyphenate” in the entertainment industry.


Julia Sherman Photography

Give us a quick introduction to you and what you do!

I am an actor, writer, producer, director, comedian, and singer. I started out doing ballet, theatre, musical theatre, singing in choirs and in bands. I trained professionally as an actor in NYC. Then, as I got older, I got more and more into improv and sketch, finally immersing myself in a world I grew up admiring (Carol Burnett was a huge influence). A few years ago my husband and I started pursuing sketch comedy in earnest. Since acting is such a tough business where you are always waiting around for someone to say “yes” to you, we thought it would be fun and smart to start writing our own material to show off our skills as performers and create a body of work. We now release a new comedy sketch every week or every other week as “We Are Thomasse”. Our videos have gotten tens of millions of views and we perform live all over the world, including in Los Angeles with out monthly show at Second City Hollywood.

You’ve done a ton of great comedy videos  and a lot of your comedic work influenced by feminist themes. I’d love to hear a little about what your experience with being a “funny woman” has been like, and if you feel like you’re able to address hot button issues more pointedly through a comedic angle.

It is interesting, while my focus has largely been on comedy the past few years, I never think of myself as just a comedian. And, from the acting side of things, I tackle a sketch comedy role the same way I tackle a Shakespearian tragedy… I believe in grounded, honest performances no matter what the medium. The comedy is funnier, and the drama more intense, if the character is really invested in the stakes of what is happening. Anyway, I digress… being “the funny woman” is liberating in some ways because I always say there is no vanity in comedy. I don’t worry about what I look like on camera or if I am pulling an ugly face: I do whatever serves the script, the story, the character, and the comedy most. I would do that no matter what the genre but with comedy I think women are “allowed” to be ugly and strange and loud and gross and bold in ways that they’re not in other areas. I put “allowed” in quotations because eff that ish, no one tells me what to do regardless of how I’m choosing to express myself. Comedy is so important because it can reach people in a way that more dramatic mediums can’t… laughter breaks down people’s walls and then they are more open to receiving a message. I’m never interested in creating things that don’t do one of two things… they either need to add positivity and joy to the world or they need to have an important message, oftentimes both at the same time. Comedy allows me to do that. I write about misogyny, victim blaming, fairytales, history, silly characters, relationships… but everything I write comes through my feminist lens. That is important to me.

Sarah Ann Masse & Husband Nick Afka Thomas of We Are Thomasse by Julia Sherman Photography

Do you have any advice for young women who want to get into comedy?

Just start. Do things that scare you. Take a class. Take up space. Use your voice. Share your particular world view. You have something to say that no one else does and that is special. Take improv. Try stand up. Push yourself to write if you’re “not a writer” (that was me several years ago and now I write short films in a hour and a half and bang out three sketches a night. You can write. Anyone can write.), hop on stage and do a sketch show if performing feels weird to you. Think about the stories you’d love to watch, roles you’d love to play, messages you’d love to share, and then make them. We live in a world where content has been democratized. If you have a phone and the internet you can make your voice heard. I teach workshops specifically on digital production to try and empower folks to make their own content. Also, if you are just starting out or like working in less of a vacuum, find a partner or a team to work with. I got lucky and married a person who is also my comedy partner. We love working together and we generally have the same taste. We make each other better.

You’ve been vocal within the #metoo movement. Has that experience impacted the work you’re doing and the kind of projects you’re creating?

Being one of the first women to come forward about Harvey Weinstein has been terrifying, inspiring, frustrating, empowering, and everything in between. I am an activist and an advocate for several survivors of sexual violence and I very much use my modest platform to talk about these issues ALL THE TIME. I also use my comedy to tell these stories. One of the first new things I wrote in the wake of coming forward was a sketch called “Christmas Crime”. It is about victim blaming. And even though it is feminist in nature, it was the first feminist comedy video we released that DIDN’T get ugly, misogynistic, negative comments. I was really proud of that. Going public didn’t change what I was already doing (one of our series “Feminist Fairytales” had come out a year or two earlier and had already gotten over a million views) but it did makes me realize that I wasn’t going to slow down or pull punches regarding these issues when it came to creating my art. The world needs more art from people who have been subjugated and silenced… that includes survivors, POC, those in the disables community and the LGBTQ+ family. Our voices all matter and they are wildly underrepresented. Unfortunately, coming forward also has had it’s downsides including career backlash. All of the folks I know who spoke out about their abusers have faced some form of negative career impact; blacklisting, getting dropped by reps, audition rates plummeting, losing jobs, etc. My hope is that those who truly support the work we are doing in our industry will make a huge effort to bring us in. Audition us, meet with us, mentor us, hire us. We put our necks on the line to change things for the better for everyone. We shouldn’t be punished for it. I truly believe in art as activism and I am proud to say that is what I am doing in all aspects of my creativity. I am using my art to put out important messages while still being able to entertain and bring joy. That is important. Art as activism also means putting one’s money where one’s mouth is and doing your part to elevate the voices of the underrepresented. I try to always hire women, POC, those with disabilities, those in the LGBTQ+ community, fellow survivors, etc. when I have the chance to and I also refer them on to other jobs. We have to lift each other up. We have to.

Like a lot of us at Ms. in the Biz, you’re a “multi-hyphenate” with producing, acting, and writing credits. What inspires you to start working on a new project? How do you juggle the different aspects of your career?

I work on things that inspire me. I work with people who inspire me. Right now, that mostly looks like creating my own work or teaming up with non profits to create entertaining content that also helps put out a message. I’ve collaborated a lot with Grammy Winner Jason Mraz. He is a man who puts love into the world through his art. He makes the world better by being an organic farmer and environmentalist. And he uses his platform to talk about important issues. He inspires me. I am also working with Equal Rights Advocates to create some funny content that informs people about new bills they are working on to create more parity and equality when it comes to sexual violence, gender discrimination, etc. This past year I produced a short called the “I Am Christine Blasey Ford” project with filmmaker Skyler Barrett which put the words of Dr. Ford’s testimony into the mouths of over a dozen survivors. It was incredibly powerful. Even when I am writing really silly comedy sketches or a sitcom pilot or a road trip comedy feature, I am always always, always considering how this story and these characters will impact the world. Will they make things better? Will they empower or enlighten? Will they help break dangerous stereotypes? I’ve also been very vocal about refusing to work with predators or those who have been complicit in their predation. This, I am sure, makes me unpopular in some circles but I don’t care. I need to be able to live with myself and I won’t sacrifice my integrity and my insistence that we hold these folks accountable, for a job. Not ever.

Jason Mraz, Sarah Ann Masse, Nick Afka Thomas

You’ve recently finished a short film, “Tristan & Kelly.” I’d love to hear how that project came about and what’s coming up for it.

Tristan & Kelly was written as a vehicle for myself and my (very talented and charming friend) Toby Sebastian (Game of Thrones, Trading Paint). I have wanted to be a rom com actress for as long as I can remember and I have also been itching to be an indie film queen. So, I wrote an atypical indie rom com. The story came flowing out of me in one sitting. It is a story about the complication of male/female dynamics, how a history of violence influences the way we interact with the world, what it means to be a woman, on one’s own, trying to live an adventurous life, the nature of love and attraction… it is funny and sweet and simple and meaningful. Ironically, we stared filming one day after I shared by story of abuse publicly. I was fielding calls from every major publication and news provider in the world. It was scary and intense and overwhelming. But I had my movie and my cast and my crew. And creating this beautiful film (the first I wrote on my own, without my writing partner) was exactly what I needed to not fall apart. The film is currently being submitted to festivals so hopefully I will get a chance to share it with the world soon. I am also working on a feature version of Tristan & Kelly. I hope those who watch the short feel like they want more, want to know what is next for these two, want to continue following them on their journey.

What’s your “dream project”?

I’m going to cheat a list a few. I want to show-run and star on my own sitcom. I want to do a huge sweeping epic period costume drama. I want to be in a Star Wars movie, a Marvel movie, and be a character on one of Greg Berlanti’s DC TV shows, and I want to become the new rom-com queen. I want rom-coms to come back! Always Be My Maybe was SO good! More of that please!

Let us know where we can find you online.


Visit Tristan & Kelly’s film’s website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Watch the trailer on Facebook.

UPCOMING SCREENINGS OF TRISTAN & KELLY

Crown Heights Film Festival

  • Date & Time: Thursday, Oct. 10th, at 7:00 pm
  • Venue: FiveMyles, 558 St Johns Pl, Brooklyn NY 11238
  • Price Range: FREE
  • Info on attending can be found here.

Indie Visions International Film Festival

  • Date & Time: Sunday, Oct. 20th,
  • Venue: Tehran, Iran
  • Price Range: TBA
  • Info on attending can be found here.

Artist Kabala Benefit Screening

  • Date & Time: Sunday, Nov. 3rd, at 2:30 pm
  • Venue: The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street
  • New York, NY 10003
  • Price Range: $15
  • Info on attending can be found here.

Imagine This Women’s International Film Festival 

  • Date & Time: Saturday, Nov. 9th, at 3:00 pm
  • Venue: UnionDocs at 322 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
  • Price Range: $15-$90
  • Info on attending can be found here.

Under The Stars International Film Festival

  • Date & Time: Wednesday, Jan. 22nd, 2020
  • Venue: Piccolo Teatro di Bari, 70124 Bari,
  • Metropolitan City of Bari, Italy
  • Price Range: TBA
  • Info on attending can be found here.

 

Laura Hunter Drago

About Laura Hunter Drago

Laura Hunter Drago is a producer, writer, and actress living in Los Angeles, California. Laura is a proud SAG-AFTRA member, is the assistant editor-in-chief of Ms. in the Biz, and is the co-founder of New Girl Pictures. She also likes baking, obsessing over Olympic ice dancers, and having long conversations with her dog Buffy. She dislikes being bored. Most recently, Laura just completed her first feature film as a producer, To The New Girl, which will screen at festivals in 2020.